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William Taylor Collins

Ode to M E R C Y

S T R O P H E.

O THOU, who sit'st a smiling Bride
By Valour's arm'd and awful Side,
Gentlest of Sky-born Forms, and best ador'd:
Who oft with Songs, divine to hear,
Win'st from his fatal Grasp the Spear,
And hid'st in Wreaths of Flow'rs his bloodless Sword!
Thou who, amidst the deathful Field,
By Godlike Chiefs alone beheld,
Oft with thy Bosom bare art found,
Pleading for him the Youth who sinks to Ground:
See, Mercy, see, with pure and loaded Hands,
Before thy Shrine my Country's Genius stands,
And decks thy Altar still, tho' pierc'd with many a Wound!

A N T I S T R O P H E.

When he whom ev'n our Joys provoke,
The Fiend of Nature join'd his Yoke,

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Dear Reader

Baudelaire considers you his brother,
and Fielding calls out to you every few paragraphs
as if to make sure you have not closed the book,
and now I am summoning you up again,
attentive ghost, dark silent figure standing
in the doorway of these words.

Pope welcomes you into the glow of his study,
takes down a leather-bound Ovid to show you.
Tennyson lifts the latch to a moated garden,
and with Yeats you lean against a broken pear tree,
the day hooded by low clouds.

But now you are here with me,
composed in the open field of this page,
no room or manicured garden to enclose us,
no Zeitgeist marching in the background,
no heavy ethos thrown over us like a cloak.

Instead, our meeting is so brief and accidental,

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Litany

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close

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In the Downhill of Life

In the downhill of life, when I find I'm declining,
May my lot no less fortunate be
Than a snug elbow-chair can afford for reclining,
And a cot that o'erlooks the wide sea;
With an ambling pad-pony to pace o'er the lawn,
While I carol away idle sorrow,
And blithe as the lark that each day hails the dawn
Look forward with hope for tomorrow.

With a porch at my door, both for shelter and shade too,
As the sunshine or rain may prevail;
And a small spot of ground for the use of the spade too,
With a barn for the use of the flail;
A cow for my dairy, a dog for my game,
And a purse when a friend wants to borrow;
I'll envy no Nabob his riches or fame,
Nor what honours may wait him tomorrow.

From the bleak northern blast may my cot be completely
Secured by a neighbouring hill;

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Ode to Pity

O THOU, the Friend of Man assign'd,
With balmy Hands his Wounds to bind,
And charm his frantic Woe:
When first Distress with Dagger keen
Broke forth to waste his destin'd Scene,
His wild unsated Foe!

2.

By Pella's Bard, a magic Name,
By all the Griefs his Thoughts could frame,
Receiue my humble Rite:
Long, Pity, let the Nations view
Thy sky-worn Robes of tend'rest Blue,
And Eyes of dewy Light!
3.

But wherefore need I wander wide
To old Ilissus' distant Side,
Deserted Stream, and mute?

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Consolation

How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress

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Tomes

There is a section in my library for death
and another for Irish history,
a few shelves for the poetry of China and Japan,
and in the center a row of imperturbable reference books,
the ones you can turn to anytime,
when the night is going wrong
or when the day is full of empty promise.

I have nothing against
the thin monograph, the odd query,
a note on the identity of Chekhov's dentist,
but what I prefer on days like these
is to get up from the couch,
pull down The History of the World,
and hold in my hands a book
containing nearly everything
and weighing no more than a sack of potatoes,
eleven pounds, I discovered one day when I placed it
on the black, iron scale
my mother used to keep in her kitchen,

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Ode to Simplicity

O thou, by Nature taught
To breathe her genuine thought
In numbers warmly pure, and sweetly strong;
Who first on mountains wild,
In Fancy, loveliest child,
Thy babe, or Pleasure's, nurs'd the pow'rs of song!

Thou, who with hermit heart,
Disdain'st the wealth of art,
And gauds, and pageant weeds, and trailing pall,
But com'st a decent maid,
In Attic robe array'd,
O chaste, unboastful nymph, to thee I call!

By all the honey'd store
On Hybla's thymy shore;
By all her blooms, and mingled murmurs dear;
By her whose lovelorn woe
In ev'ning musings slow
Sooth'd sweetly sad Electra's poet's ear:

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Ode to Evening

If aught of oaten stop, or pastoral song,
May hope, chaste Eve, to soothe thy modest ear,
Like thy own solemn springs,
Thy springs and dying gales,
O nymph reserv'd, while now the bright-hair'd sun
Sits in yon western tent, whose cloudy skirts,
With brede ethereal wove,
O'erhang his wavy bed:
Now air is hush'd, save where the weak-ey'd bat,
With short shrill shriek, flits by on leathern wing,
Or where the beetle winds
His small but sullen horn,
As oft he rises 'midst the twilight path,
Against the pilgrim borne in heedless hum:
Now teach me, maid compos'd,
To breathe some soften'd strain,
Whose numbers stealing thro' thy dark'ning vale
May not unseemly with its stillness suit,
As musing slow, I hail
Thy genial lov'd return!

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O D E, To a Lady on the Death of Colonel R O S S in the action of Fontenoy

1.

W H I L E, lost to all his former Mirth,
Britannia's Genius bends to Earth,
And mourns the fatal Day:
While stain's with Blood he strives to tear
Unseemly from his Sea-green Hair
The Wreaths of chearful May:

2.

The Thoughts which musing Pity pays,
And fond Remembrance loves to raise,
Your faithful Hours attend:
Still Fancy to Herself unkind,
Awakes to Grief the soften'd Mind,
And points the bleeding Friend.

3.

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